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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Garden of Grief

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"Night on the El Train," by Edward Hopper


Garden of Grief

Listening to you
describe your garden

is like listening
to the thrumming wings of a hummingbird

    arcing backward
or forward
       whirring side-
    to-side

whisper-droning a puff of air against my cheek
as you rocket past
to the bee balm

where you suddenly stop and hover in place, steadily
so you can eat the fire
flower by flower

Next, you linger
intent before the faded
damask rose

where no nectar
rewards your lapping tongue

and summoning your last day’s effort
you vault up to the power line
tiny on the perch

to sleep in jeweled torpor
plummeting

into dreams
of a different

garden





-Listen to a podcast of this poem here.
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58 comments:

rosaria said...

Ohhhhhhh! I'm transported.

California Girl said...

very erotic.

read it twice then listened to your podcast too.

fanning myself.

George said...

Beautiful, Ruth, and both poignant and evocative. How many of us dream of a different garden, even as we seek comfort in the one beneath our nose. Such is the difference between the interior life and the exterior life.

cathyswatercolors said...

Ruth, This is the best! I am longing for the garden and am enjoying the Jan. thaw and the chance to look at gardens colors in winter.
Your poem is worthy of publication, if it hasn't been already. A garden lovers poem for sure.xox cb
Happy New Year

Woman in a Window said...

Ruth, forgive me. I want to understand.

I see the hummingbird. I see her journey. And I freaken love the language, bee balm and eat the fire flower by flower. And too, the sudden streak toward the unnatural construct of the power line. I love it. And then I fall back to the title, and I want to understand. Where is the grief? I'm in a period of grief. I am looking for understanding.

I see you here in this place and it is very rich and lovely. I am glad to have finally found my way here.

my best,
erin

Margaret Bednar said...

So, now I know that "darkness" can be comforting. Thank you for your explanation on the poem a few posts down. With poetry, one must really look at different angles and look at things with a new light. Very exciting. This poem is lovely, but why the grief? Is it because it isn't quite content? I love the sketch you chose. I'm looking forward (a little) to the kids (all but one!) going off to school again so I can draw and paint! Really, your words are lovely. You are an inspiration!

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Compelling imagery and an eerie mood that you create here, Ruth. The delicate hummingbird (with the fastest heartbeat of any creature—over 1200 beats per minute!) eating fire flower by flower and then perching, tiny, on the powerline. The sense of danger is palpable, the nectarless rose disconcerting, the plummet painful, the title doomladen. Only the dreaming saves us.

At the risk of venturing an intensely personal question, is the 'faded damask rose' one of the 'roses trailing' from another poem, another garden, another dream?

ds said...

Ohhhh, Ruth. That hummingbird, zipping in all directions, eating the fire flower by flower, the damask rose...Such beauty of language, of image. This requires multiple readings, and Lorenzo confirmed my suspicions.
Exquisite. like that tiny jeweled bird on the wire, the perfect balance of beauty and pain.

Thank you. You. Are. Real.

Marcie said...

Such beautiful words to accompany Hopper's sketch. Magical expression of love!

Ron Bennett said...

Ahhhh - Ruth this is so beautiful.

Terresa said...

Mmm, this is rich, Ruth, as are you in thoughts.

I adore poetry for what it says, what it doesn't say, and every minute nuance in between. I like it posted here with no explanation, Ruth, I prefer none, drawing my own conclusions from the picture and your words. And I walk away, enriched.

kanmuri said...

That really touched me. Thank you.

Char said...

love the simple construction. the poem is beautiful - plus, i love the hopper etching

Vagabonde said...

This is beautiful. The words spin like a hummingbird and can be interpreted in various ways. You weave magic with your words.

Oh said...

it is SO cool that you include your reading (podcast). What a great way to bring us closer to the poem and the poet!

Margaret Bednar said...

I realized I could delete my comments, thank goodness. Too rambling, too many questions! This poem has taught me to let a poem simmer, and, like you have often said, come back to it multiple times. I have given thought to the imagery, and it has wonderful layers. Just beautiful.

Soul Dipper said...

The mystery of the lovers and the grief shared is mine. Thanks to your engaging visuals, I'm left with a story to build. Such beauty. Thanks.

Peter said...

Don’t we all often dream of a “different garden”. I guess it could be understood in many ways, more or less dramatic, just a small (if possible positive) change, just something new in your life…. Wonderfully written and of course even better when your voice is added to it! All the best for 2011!

Ruth said...

Rosaria, what a beautiful response. Thank you.

Ruth said...

California Girl, it means so much to me that this little poem would stir you that way. I agree that there is almost no way to consider a hummingbird without feeling the sensual presence of how we physically come together as humans.

Ruth said...

Thank you, George. The ways we do this, taking in the exterior, into the interior, and vice versa, seems to me to define who we are, maybe more importantly than any other characteristic. Transforming reality into dreams, and dreams into reality . . . and all the while not resisting what is . . . this is our flow, the challenge of being human, with the ability to imagine something other than the physical facts of existence.

Ruth said...

Cathy, thank you for such kind words!

What you say about the thaw we had is so true. I looked out the window at the green grass and was amazed. I also took from your comment that maybe you are looking at the colors flooding into our mailboxes now via seed, flower and veggie catalogs. Garden planning is such a warm prospect in January in Michigan.

Happy New Year, Cathy, and I look forward to seeing more from that one tube of paint!

Ruth said...

Dear Erin, I am so glad you found your way to my blog from Northern Ontario. I hope it was not non-stop, the way hummingbirds fly 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico . . .

I am so sorry you are in grief now. It is so important to be in it utterly, to be it while it is with us, to bear witness to it, as with all parts of life.

Please permit me to leave the title without explanation. This poem could have a different title (just as we can dream a different life). Would it be a different poem? No doubt it would. Writing the poem out of my life at this moment, this is the title that came about mid-way in the writing, and it stayed. It is an internal, reflective, indirect title, and I trust that each reader will witness it through their own life.

I so appreciate your attention to my lines, and to my blog. Stay warm up there!

Ruth said...

Dear Margaret, I was quite taken with Will's and your interpretation of the avalanche poem. We do each bring our life to our readings, and all is perceived through our own view. It was revealing for me in poetry workshops in college, to hear how differently lines were interpreted. One of the biggest lessons was that others did not "get" what I was trying to say in mine. It was so clear to me! But often I did/do not know how to reveal just enough, but not too much.

Let me respond to your other comment (and the ones you deleted) here too. As I said in my email to you, I put great value on what you did honestly in your comment posts, by way of thinking through the various ways we interact with another person's words. As I said to Erin (Woman in a Window), I'll leave the title alone, without explaining it, so that you can find its meaning in your own self. There are so many poems that I never engage with, for instance some that pop up in The Writer's Almanac. But when I am hooked, I am learning to let it work in me as it will, though it is very interesting to contemplate what it was the poet intended.

As always, Margaret, I thank you with all my heart for so intently, honestly and beautifully engaging with my blog posts. It means so very much to me.

I wish you a smooth transition as your kids go back to school! And may you and your three-year-old have some special time alone together . . . and you alone with You.

Ruth said...

Dear Lorenzo, thank you for your close look at this poem of mine. As I have studied hummingbirds and their habits (and that beautiful scene in "Ray" when Ray urges Della to hear the hummingbird outside the window . . . and exclaims that the hummingbird's heart just skipped a beat!) my profound admiration for their lightness, strength, and endurance has deepened. I appreciate how their heart beats that rapidly, and then slows to 250 beats per minute when they are in that torpor-rest.

You frequently find connections in my work that I have not yet consciously made. (Imagine if we could speak with Rilke, or Rumi, or any number of poets and discuss our insights from their work . . . ) The lines . . where no nectar / rewards your lapping tongue . . . felt like an echo to me, and I did not discover until your comment that they echo my lines in the villanelle about my mother . . . to no forbidding voice assent . . . .

Yes, the dreaming saves us, and sometimes it torments us. It takes conscious effort to stay upright and afloat in the stream of life, while we bob between circumstances and our interior life.

Ginnie said...

To read the comments thus far, Sister, and your responses to them has been the frosting on the cake to this poem. I found myself wanting to BE with you again for awhile....

Ruth said...

DS, my friend, your close approach to my poem feels like a warm hug. Thank you for such kind words. As I said to Lorenzo, I'll say to you, you have done this before too, finding connections in my word gatherings that were subconscious to me until you pointed them out. Do you recognize what a gift that is to me?

Ruth said...

Thank you, Marcie.

Pauline said...

Oh the angst of grief, the

"arcing backward
or forward
whirring side-
to-side"

as you so accurately describe it. You broke my heart with the description of the frantic feeding on the fire of available flowers and then pausing before the fading rose -

And in the end, it is the dreaming that sees us through, that eventually saves us. (And the listening of understanding friends.) This is such a beautiful expression of grief, Ruth, even though that sounds like a contradiction.

Ruth said...

Dear Ron. You and Jane are well acquainted with grief. And . . . perhaps . . . gardens . . . crickets, dragonflies . . .

Thank you.

Ruth said...

Terresa, I thank you for your rich thoughts, and for the inviting hollow of freedom you present in the reading of my poem, and all poems. What do words evoke in us as readers? Whole worlds! Separate, and yet ever conjoined.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kanmuri.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Char, very much. I have Hopper's etching on a postcard, which I use as a bookmark . . . usually in the "favorite" book I'm currently reading.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, thank you for your generous, beautiful words.

Ruth said...

Oh, thanks! I am glad you listen and like. It's pretty darn easy with Garage Band on my macbook.

Ruth said...

Beautiful mystery, Soul Dipper. Don't know what I'd do without it. Thank you for your engagement.

Ruth said...

Merci, Peter. Well you know I often dream of my Paris garden. And as you say, we can change our real life with small shifts that are intentional. I bring a little Paris to the farm . . .

Ruth said...

Pauline, your comment is tremendously touching and welcome. I believe grief, like all of life, even death, can be beautiful. I feel we have turned it around and perceived it wrongly, if we find it abhorrent.

Ruth said...

Boots, oops, I skipped over you in order . . .

Thank you. Perhaps it's getting to be time for a skype?

Deborah said...

Ruth, I admit that I'm glad never to be one of the first to arrive here, because reading the comments and your reponses is as Ginnie said (was it Ginnie??) are the icing on the cake.

I am not a poet nor particularly appreciative of poetry, in the sense that I don't seek it out. But that doesn't interfere with my appreciation of what you write, which is beautiful. I did not, though, interpret 'grief' in this poem. Quite the opposite.

Jeanie said...

Dear Ruth -- it is always a gift when I come to your space and read your thoughtful, evocative words. I often feel as though I am the hummingbird -- whizzing about, looking for the different garden.

And I will say, in my personal experience of loss, the title of the poem and the frantic movement of the hummingbird -- well, I'm not saying it well, but it all akes perfect sense to me. Lovely.

Cait O'Connor said...

Very moving.

Jane Lancaster said...

I like what you said to Erin... I felt this poem strongly, personally. It is vivid. My sister was like a hummingbird, a butterfly...

Oliag said...

Dear Ruth...have I ever told you that Bee Balm is my favorite flower growing in my yard...growing wildly out of control with all its odors and brilliance...and how the hummingbirds fight over it?

Now I know I don't need to tell you how much I enjoy this poem...

xo
Gail

who said...

I think you did an incredible job creating this peace. It IS perfect Ruthi. It perfectly describes how I imagine everyone might think.

This like that and that like this and even all the shades of black and white as well as all the colors that may get lost in between.

It makes perfect sense to me Ruth

Ruth said...

Deborah, you are right, the comments are very rich, one of the best things about blogging. Thank you for taking the time to engage with them as you have.

I am touched also by what you say about reading my poems when you don't seek poetry out. As for interpreting the poem, and the title, we do it all the time, even when we agree with how they're paired. If you and I were sitting together now, I would tell you a little about that title . . .

Ruth said...

Jeanie, those are such kind words, thank you. There is much here in this poem that I know, and I have a feeling there is a lot I don't know consciously yet. Working on it.

Happy New Year!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Cait. Stay warm over there.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Jane. If you recognize something in yourself and Pam in this poem, that enlarges its authenticity for me, which means a lot.

Dragonflies, crickets, grasshoppers, hummingbirds, butterflies . . . all so evocative of our loved ones who have passed, and will one day pass.

Ruth said...

Oliag, I do seem to recall photos of your bee balm. We love it too, finding it for the first time here at the farm. We transplanted some, and alas, it did not survive. Now we have just a smidgen. Need to plant more. The magenta is what I was thinking of in this poem.

It is hard to explain, and even understand in my mind why this poem belongs with this title, but I think maybe you understand.

Ruth said...

Dusti, thank you so much.

Susan said...

Ruthie, you touch my heart with your words. And yes, a poem should be interpreted by our emotions and our hearts, not with our heads.

Flowers, photographs...one and the same.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Susie. Poems are a good meditation for that reason, I think. They help me get out of my mind . . . both reading them, and writing too.

deb said...

I simply am astonished at how this makes me feel each time I read it.
It's really quite remarkable. Your images . Not my flitting and lingering..

As someone who writes rather slant sometimes.. I love giving little bits of whatever art I so humbly offer and seeing how it is received , seeing how it is taken,

and then to see , if I'm so lucky, how it is given back.

Sorry for the delay in responding here, and I've been to the Rilke site and have yet to leave a comment ( I think) . Having the level of activity and noise and interruption magnified here is fabulous, but a little "stifling" . I say that with a smile and a bursting heart of course. But also a little longing for ...

Ruth said...

Deb, no apologies needed. I welcome you with open arms.

Your slant writing reveals just enough of your beautiful heart, and retains just enough mystery, to accomplish just what you describe. I am usually speechless upon reading it . . . and then I move from that deep response into some sort of jibberish.

There is a time and season for all the activity, but I too relish solitude and quiet. I look forward to what you will post out of your slanty, glinty window, which is remarkably beautiful.

Barb said...

Ruth, I've read your poem many times. I interpret it differently than some - I see the betrayal - the flitting bird drawn even to sources that offer no satisfaction. I felt a restlessness in the poem - perhaps one that engenders grief.

Woman in a Window said...

Ruth, thank you for considering my question. I think I was stuck on the title as I was anxious for instruction. I laugh. As though there is instruction for how to live through grief. And yet, you did offer instruction and I am happy to say that while I gargled like an animal through the streets in the midst in the deepest of the pain, around my pain, there was a quiet and shadowy layer of gratitude. I didn't want to acknowledge it at the time. I wanted the pain to simply abate, but it was there waiting for me to receive it, this, another chance to grow.

xo
erin

Loring Wirbel said...

Remarkable rhythm and passion in this one, and its form looks good on the printed page, as well!